Ohio Public Safety Department Goes Beyond Call of Duty
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2009 More than one in 10 employees of the Ohio Department of Public Safety is a member of the National Guard or reserves.
So when citizen-soldiers on staff are called to active duty and asked to trade their civilian attire for a military uniform -- as 155 currently are -- the department also fulfills its obligation to the country -- and then some.
As is the case with all law-abiding civilian employers, the Ohio Department of Public Safety, or ODPS, promises to keep servicemembers’ jobs in place until they return. But the Columbus-based ODPS also goes above and beyond the call of duty.
“I’m a Vietnam vet myself, and I knew how important it was to get letters from home, get letters from loved ones. It was contact with what we called ‘the world’ back then,” said ODPS Director Henry Guzman.
Bringing with him the lessons he learned during his years of service, Guzman created a military and veterans committee of current and former servicemembers to oversee related issues at the department.
“We meet every month, and we talk about issues for our employees; we talk about programs that might be a benefit for our employees,” he said.
Some of the topics the committee oversees are the additional benefits the department offers, including differential pay and continued family medical and life insurance benefits. In addition, deployed members continue to receive annual raises, seniority and promotion opportunities.
The committee also provides special recognition. “Every quarter, we select an employee that has prior service to be the employee of the quarter, and from that group we select a military employee of the year,” he said. “And that’s our way of thanking the men and women who have served.”
The committee also implemented a comprehensive “ODPS Military Heroes” Web site and published an extensive guide for military members, their families, fellow employees and agency leadership.
Additionally, the ODPS information technology team created a unique modification to a popular personnel software called “PeopleSoft” that establishes an electronic platform for managing their support of uniformed services employees, veterans and their families.
“The system requires that the supervisors enter pertinent data about the military employee, and it automatically generates notices for monthly follow-ups with the families,” Guzman said. “It reminds the supervisor, ‘Have you contacted Joe Smith’s family this month?’
“In the minutiae of all the work that needs to be done,” he continued, “people are busy and need those kinds of reminders. And so we created this system that helps us track their employees and reminds them to call their family members.”
ODPS will receive the Freedom Award along with 14 other employers in a ceremony here Sept. 17. The Freedom Award, instituted in 1996 under the auspices of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, recognizes exceptional support from the employer community.
The Freedom Award recognizes U.S. employers that rise above the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. ODPS previously received numerous ESGR state awards for their support for National Guard and reserve employees, including the Above and Beyond Award and Pro Patria Award.